Friday, October 23, 2020

Believe Care Invest: CSI

Why Gil might be hard to identify with: 
  • We’re used to seeing the heroic cops meet with the science guy in just one scene per episode. We like heroes with the agency necessary to see a case through from beginning to end, which CSIs don’t have.
  • He’s kind of cruel to the new hire. He takes Holly’s blood just to have fun with, then tricks her into eating a grasshopper. But after that period of hazing, he softens to her.
  • He’s got lots of mottos, such as “Forget about the husband, Warrick, forget about the assumptions, forget about your promotion, these things will only fool you, think about what cannot lie, the evidence.”
  • At the first act one, when Holly gets scared by a room full of corpses, he comforts her and then yells “You assholes” at the corpses.
  • He’s disrespected by his cop colleagues “Here comes the nerd squad.”
  • He’s embarrassed when a co-worker reminds him they went on a date that fizzled.
  • He’s got good eyes. He’s got lots of expertise. Right away, he finds a maggot on a corpse that tells him a lot, even things his fellow CSI can’t see.
Five Es
  • Eat: He eats a grasshopper.
  • Exercise: No.
  • Economic Activity: His job seems to be his life.
  • Enjoy: He works with a sly smile on his face.
  • Emulate: He acts like a real cop.
Rise above
  • Never.
  • Unlike some other science-minded heroes to come, he’s genuinely empathetic to the families of the victims.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Community

Why Jeff might be hard to identify with: 
  • He’s a lawyer (who faked his law degree.)  He’s a cheater.  He’s a cad. He’s a liar.
  • I absolutely love it when the Dean realizes he’s lost the card that had the inspiring part of his speech and says, “Can we all look around our immediate areas?”, which is a phrase I know only from real life and not from TV. 
  • As for Jeff, though, he doesn’t feel particularly real to me. He explicitly states that one of his problems is that he’s stitched his personality together from TV shows, though, so I guess that’s kind of the point.
  • The dean accidentally makes it clear to everyone that this is a loser school.
  • The state bar has suspended Jeff’s license. He has to admit over the course of the episode that he’s coasted by and he has no idea how to live in the world.
  • He’s a great talker: “I discovered at a very early age that if I talk long enough, I could make anything right or wrong, so either I’m god, or truth is relative, and in either case, boo-yah.” He’s good at hitting on Britta: She says she doesn’t want to make small talk. He asks “What’s your deal?” She asks “Isn’t that small talk?” He says, “What’s your deal and is God dead?”
Five Es: Our first ever five nos!
  • Eat: No
  • Exercise: No
  • Economic Activity: No. I mean, he’s kind of trying to get his job back.
  • Enjoy: No, he’s entirely jaded and doesn’t seem to enjoy much.
  • Emulate: No.
Rise above
  • He has no job to rise above.
High five a black guy
  • He stands up for various people of color.
  • He shows some sensitivity to Abed. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Cheers

Why Sam might be hard to identify with: 
  • He’s a bar owner, which is not generally regarded as a heroic profession. He seems like he might be a cad.
  • He knows all the tricks of the trade.
  • He’s a recovering alcoholic, which is a believable enough weakness for a bar owner.
  • He’s disrespected: Diane says, “I’m not in the habit of talking to bartenders.” Sam says, “I understand. One’s trying to move into my neighborhood.”
  • Diane correctly says, “What a shame such an astute observer of human nature is stuck behind a bar.”
  • He tricks and traps the underage customer into revealing himself.
  • His lover calls him a “magnificent pagan beast”, so if he’s a cad at least he’s a talented one. 
  • We side with his working class perspective and his wit. Diane quotes some poetry and says “That’s Donne.” Sam says “I hope so.”
  • He used to be one of best pitchers in baseball.
Five Es
  • Eat: He can’t answer the phone because he’s got a mouth full of coffee, so he has to mime.
  • Exercise: No.
  • Economic Activity: He’s running the bar he owns.
  • Enjoy: He’s amused by his employees and regulars. He enjoys poking fun at Diane.
  • Emulate: Not really.
Rise above
  • He refuses business in the first scene.
High five a black guy
  • No.
  • He’s gentle to the kid he refuses to serve.
  • He offers Diane and Sumner free champagne then offers her sympathy when it becomes clear she’s been ditched.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Breaking Bad

Why Walt might be hard to identify with: 
  • If we hadn’t seen him brandishing a gun in the flashforward, we might find him too much of a sad sack. He endures a lot of humiliations and it’s a little wearying. When he finally breaks bad, we’re ready for it.
  • In the flashforward, he’s wearing tighty whities that feel very real.
  • His disabled son is a smartass, rather than saintly, and they give him shit about his attitude, understanding that he’s not fragile.
  • This guy lives in our economy. His money troubles and humiliations are very well observed from real life.
  • The doctor who gives him his cancer diagnosis has a mustard stain on his coat.
Care: You want reasons to care? We’ve got a dozen of them!
  • In the flashforward, we don’t quite understand what’s going on, but we can see he’s in a very bad situation. He seems to think he’ll be arrested or killed. He doesn’t have any pants on. ii. Present day: He’s turning 50 and his wife gives him a 50 spelled out in “veggie bacon” which looks terrible. His son says it smells like band-aids.
  • His son has cerebral palsy. Walt mainly handles this excellently, but he lets just a bit of frustration slip through when, after dropping Walt Jr. off, he yanks the handicap sign off his mirror and tries to put it in the glove compartment, which won’t close, indicating that he can’t escape his son’s diagnosis.
  • Most of his students ignore him, and one actively humiliates him.
  • He has to work in a car wash after his teaching job and ends up having to shine the asshole student’s rims while he’s laughed at. vi. His son adores his brother-in-law Hank’s gun. Hank then mocks Walt.
  • For his birthday, he gets a contemptuous handjob from his wife while she does an eBay option.
  • He’s been coughing, and finally collapses into the suds at the car wash. In ambulance, he asks to be dropped off at a corner be cause he “doesn’t have the greatest insurance.” He undergoes a typically terrifying PET Scan. Finally he’s told he has inoperable lung cancer, but he’s too numb to react.
  • In the flashforward, he’s brandishing a gun, possibly preparing to shoot some cops. We don’t know if he killed all those guys in the RV.
  • In the flashback, we we see he’s not just good at science, he contributed to research that won the Nobel Prize.
  • He’s clearly a great teacher, spraying spraybottles to change the color of flames.
Five Es
  • Eat: Joylessly eats veggie bacon
  • Exercise: He gets up at 5am to exercise on some sort of step machine.
  • Economic Activity: He’s working two jobs.
  • Enjoy: He can’t enjoy the party. He can’t even enjoy the handjob.
  • Emulate: He wishes he could win his son’s admiration like Hank does. He asks to do a ride along to busting a meth lab, seemingly because he wants to emulate Hank, but actually because he wants to emulate the cooks.
Rise above
  • He finally stands up to his car wash boss after his diagnosis.
High five a black guy
  • No.
  • He’s loving to his son.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Believe Care Invest: 24

Why Jack might be hard to identify with: 
  • Not much reason yet. We can’t guess yet that he’s a torture-crazy psychopath (as opposed to the second season opener, which puts that front and center.)
  • It’s fascinating how soft Jack is in these opening minutes. He seems about to lose chess to his daughter and lets himself be emotionally manipulated by her, admits that to his wife and agrees to change, gets humiliated by Kim’s disappearance, doesn’t really want to go into work... It’s the most emotionally vulnerable he’ll be in the series, his last chance to really seem human.
  • His daughter disappears at five minutes in. He then gets called into work, upsetting his wife. His employees are more interested in playing politics than getting the work done.
  • Treating kids like adults is always likeable and we start with him playing chess with his teen daughter.
  • He calls and threatens Kim’s ex-boyfriend in a bad-ass way.
  • When he gets to work, he starts to become the take-charge guy we know and love. “I don’t care how it’s interpreted, I just gave you an order and I want you to follow it.”
Five Es
  • Eat: Jack will soon become famous for his ability to never eat, but he does have a pudding here. Hope that’ll last you for 24 hours, Jack!
  • Exercise: There’s a weight-lifting set-up in the room with him, but he’s playing chess instead. He’ll get plenty of exercise eventually, of course.
  • Economic Activity: He gets called in to work at midnight and reluctantly goes.
  • Enjoy: He’s kind of enjoying chess, I guess.
  • Emulate: He says he’ll try to parent in the way his wife wants, then tries to be the sort of work supervisor his boss would want.
Rise above
  • By halfway in, he will shoot a senior officer in the interest of justice.
High five a black guy
  • The show is about him trying to stop the assassination of a black presidential candidate, seemingly targeted by racists within Jack’s agency.
  • He’s sensitive to his wife’s needs.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Episode 22: The Holy Moment

Hi guys, it’s a new podcast episode, ad-free! James has advice for writing opening scenes and I basically agree with him for once. Plus, James almost gets hit by a meteor and I sing the praises of Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Storyteller's Rulebook: Superlative Writing Basics in "The Intuitionist"

As I said yesterday, there were several elements of “The Intuitionist” that made it hard to identify with Lila Mae. So if I was alienated from my hero, why did I keep reading? Simply speaking, when the writing is this good, the author earns a lot of leeway. Ultimately, novel writing comes down to the basics: great words, great sentences, great paragraphs, and great chapters. Let’s look at some:

Whitehead uses adjectives that we can vividly see but we’ve never heard before. 
  • “The light at this hour, on this street, is the secondhand gray of ghetto twilight, a dull mercury color.”
  • A character has a “Hieroglpyic squint”
  • “All of the Department’s cars are algae green.”
  • A large bed is “swimmable”
  • He uses great sensory writing (and another great adjective): “The hallway smells of burning animal fat and obscure gravies boiling to slag.”
Every one of Whitehead’s character descriptions are delightful. 
  • She thinks about the men who have come before and sums one up quickly: “Martin Gruber chews with his mouth open and likes to juggle his glass eye.” 
  •  Later, we get to go into the head of one of the mafia goons searching her apartment: “He’s still searching for a concordance between the loss of his virginity (purchased) and an ankle sprain (accidental) exactly three years later, give or take an hour. John is sure it will come, awaiting another item in the series or a new perspective on the extant ones. No matter.”
Whitehead’s street description are great: “It is situated in the heart of the city, on a streetcorner that clots with busy, milling citizens during the day and empties completely at night except for prostitutes and lost encyclopedia salesmen.”

He does a great job job of breaking up sentence into shorter sentences in order to convey skepticism: “A regrettable incident in Atlanta kicked up a lot of fuss in the trades a few years back, but an inquiry later absolved Arbo of any wrongdoing. As they say.” Inserting that period takes the place of unneeded sentences, adjectives, and adverbs.

An aspiring novelist might find it worth their time to simply transcribe this novel and chew over every sentence to learn how to write.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Believe Care Invest in “The Intuitionist”

Why Lila Mae might be hard to identify with:
  • Well, first of all she might be hard to identify with because she’s an elevator inspector, which is not a profession we’re used to rooting for. But she makes it look really cool, so we quickly get on board.
  • At one point Whitehead says, “Lila Mae’s been a practicing solipsist since before she could walk.” It’s hard to root for a solipsist.
  • Nevertheless, due to the excellent BCI, I was totally onboard with Lila Mae, until the inciting incident happens and she doesn’t react the way I want her to. When she hears that one of the elevators she okayed has crashed, she doesn’t ask if there were any casualties or go to investigate. We like that she’s tough, but this is a little too tough to fully identify with. It’s alienating, and could lose the reader if strong BCI hadn’t been built up.
  • The second paragraph begins, “She doesn’t know what to do with her eyes. The front door of the building is too scarred and gouged to look at, and the street behind her is improbably empty, as if the city had been evacuated and she’s the only one who didn’t hear about it.” We’re plunged right into her self-conscious head, describing her unease in a way we’ve never heard before but instantly recognize as similar to our own self-consciousness.
  • Place names are never mentioned, but we assume that Lila Mae has migrated from a small southern town to a big northern city in the 1940s, and encountered massive racism in each. Nevertheless, she’s not portrayed as as nobly suffering victim. What’s fascinating is how conservative she is. Whitehead says, “Even from the twelfth floor, she can still hear the woman downstairs yelling at her children, or what Lila Mae supposes to be children. You never know these days.” Later he describes, presumably from Lila Mae’s point of view, “a city with an increasingly vocal colored population—who are not above staging tiresome demonstrations for the lowlier tabloids”. Lila Mae has a southern small town attitude to big northern cities, regardless of her race. This makes her seem very real to us.
  • Lila Mae has the particular values of her profession, which is always good. Her political enemy tries to bribe the opposition with new screwdrivers, and Lila Mae has to admit “the new screwdrivers were quite beautiful.”
  • We begin with a scene that we assume happens every day: Lila Mae endures humiliating treatment by a building superintendent who has never seen a black or female elevator inspector before, (“How come Jimmy didn’t come this time?” the super asks. “Jimmy’s good people.”) She then suffers the ultimate humiliation for an elevator inspector: An elevator she okays crashes.
  • We can tell Whitehead loves comic books, because he lifts a character wholesale from Frank Miller’s “Daredevil” comics. And, as a comic book lover, he knows the value of giving Lila Mae superpowers, established right away. She doesn’t climb around elevator shafts, she can simply sense what’s wrong with an elevator, and, until the incident, gets it right every time. 
  • We’re then impressed when the superintendent tries to bribe her to make her forget about it, but she takes the bribe and cites him anyway. (“You placed sixty dollars in my pocket. I don’t think I implied by my behavior that I wanted you to bribe me, nor have I made any statement or gesture, such as an outstretched palm, for example, saying that I would change my report because you gave me money. If you want to give away your hard-earned money”—Lila Mae waves her hand toward a concentration of graffiti—“I see it as a curious, although in this case fortuitous, habit of yours that has nothing whatsoever to do with me. Or why I’m here.”) That’s pretty bad-ass.
  • Jimmy in the garage has a crush on her. She’s self-conscious, but we sense that she needn’t be.
Five Es
  • Eat: Not till later.
  • Exercise: No. There’s a chase scene much later in the book.
  • Economic Activity: Very much so, her life is her job.
  • Enjoy: No, never, other than appreciating her new screwdriver.
  • Emulate: When she inspects an elevator, she reads though the initials of the previous inspectors and tries to figure out who each one was. She’s overwhelming aware of those that came before her, and her various amounts of respect for each.
Rise above
  • She decides not to check in after the accident, sensing that she’s going to look out for herself in this thing and can’t trust her bosses.
High five a black guy
  • Not an issue.
  • No, never. She’s a solipsist, and not interesting in helping anyone other than herself.

Friday, October 02, 2020

So That's Over...

Well, folks, we have left the podcast network. I have now re-re-edited all the old podcasts, taken out the network tag, added the latest episodes to Soundcloud, updated the old episodes with the new art and music, redirected the rss to soundcloud, re-updated the embed on all the old blog posts, etc.

The original deal was 2 ads at the beginning and end of every episode, but then I had to add more and more, to the point where we had 16 ads in the Laika episode. It was just too much. But I figured, “Well, let’s wait to see if we're making a ton of money.” So I waited until we had 1664 downloads which is a respectable number, and I asked how much money we’d made so far. Guess how much? No, lower. Lower. Lower. We’d made $12.18. Of which the podcast network gets half, leaving $6.09. Which we split, leaving $3.04 and a half penny each. For many, many hours work. So we bailed. The original purpose of this podcast was to promote our brands, and it can do that better without the avalanche of ads. No need to subject you to that for pennies.

So the good news for you is that you get the beatiful new music and art without having to suffer with the ads that come with them. The bad news is that we’ll feel less pressure now to churn out a lot of episodes. But hey, there’s no reason we can’t be self-motivated, right? Right?

Here’s our latest episode again, now ad-free: